Case Overview

On the 12 March 1992 at 9.30 am Susan went, as she did every morning, to check that her aunt Hilda was out of bed, and to give her her lunch. On going into the house she found her aunt dead on her bed in the downstairs room, viciously beaten about the head and face, with the lower parts of her body uncovered. A burglar had ransacked the house, tipping out drawers and cupboards. 18 days later, Susan was arrested for the murder. 80 local people immediately volunteered character references to her kind and caring nature.

The police spent seven or eight days looking for the burglar without success. They built their case against Susan around three stains on the wall in the dining room (used as her aunt's bedroom), one of which contained Susan's fingerprint and which they said was blood. They said it had not looked like a real burglary as no money had been taken - a fact only pointed out to them by Susan herself. Her motive was said to have been to get a half share with her sister in her aunt's house to spend on her boyfriend.

Susan believed that the British Justice System was the best in the world and that, being innocent, she had no need to fear. Her solicitor must have thought the same for his preparation for this murder trial required him to call only one witness-Susan's daughter. The prosecution used several expert witnesses.

The original jury did not hear any of the following evidence.

A "Mr W" saw a red car with three occupants in the area shortly after midnight.
"Mr O" - Hilda's next door neighbour - looked out of his bedroom window shortly after midnight to see a red car without occupants but with its engine running!! It was there for 15 minutesbefore being driven off. Its engine was not running smoothly. These cars were not eliminated from the enquiry.

Unidentified fingerprints were found in the house and an unidentified footmark in a wardrobe.

Clothing fibres were found on Hilda's hand, which were not found to match any of Susan's or her aunt's clothing. The police unhelpfully filed this exhibit under 'hairs'.

"K.B" (whose brother "B" was a known burglar) stated that on the morning of the murder, her brother, "B", had spoken to her about the murder, even before Susan had found her aunt. "K.B." later retracted her statement. The police filed her statement in the wrong file and therefore lost it to the defence!!

A number of other burglars were arrested, one being said to be a 'good suspect'.

At trial, the judge dismissed the suggestion of any wrong-doing in the financial area. Susan had Power of Attorney over ger Aunt. Susan could have brought her aunt to live with her and her mother, who she also cared for, and then sold her aunt's house, keeping all the proceeds for herself without resorting to murder.

The judge said that the main planks were the issues of Susan's fingerprint in blood, and a statement (that Susan was supposed to have made) relating to scratches on her aunts face, about which she could only have known if she was the murderer. The CCRC (Criminal Cases Review Commission) have discovered that the policeman who told Susan how her aunt died had recorded in his notebook 'bruising to face and head'. It is reasonable to assume that he may have also mentioned the scratches. It should be noted that Susan is adamant that she did not make this statement. The police have lost the notebook in which it was originally recorded!!

With regard to the three stains (the prosecution's main plank), it was said that the Supervising Officer first saw them early on the morning of the first day. It was said that the stain with Susan's fingerprint, JH1, tested positive for blood of some kind. The third stain, MSN14, tested positive for human blood (but impossible to say whose blood it was).
The jury were presented with the following sweeping assumptions:
  • MSN14 was Hilda's blood
  • JH1, the stain with Susan's fingerprint in it, must also be Hilda's blood,
  • Susan made the marks after getting blood on her hands when killing her aunt.
The CCRC have ascertained that there is no photographic evidence, neither video nor stills, of the key exhibit MSN14 from that first day. The forensic scientists' contemporaneous notes of that day, which should have been kept sacrosanct, have been extensively altered. No records exist to show that these stains were tested on that day as claimed.

Test records given to Susan's appeal solicitors purporting to be these records were submitted on a form that did not exist until 12 months after the date in question.

Neither the scientist nor his assistant has ever been able to say which one of them carried out the tests. The stain with the fingerprint, JH 1, when tested at appeal stage by FSS Whetherby police scientists, independent of this investigation, obtained 'negative for blood' results. Europe's foremost blood expert, Professor Brinkman, also obtained 'negative results' for the defence.
A further, similar stain was found, of which it was said that it had been there prior to the murder.

The CCRC have discovered another unhelpfully labelled exhibit, which, in the absence of Susan's being able to remember (a significant factor at the trial), provides an innocent explanation of how her fingerprint in blood could have come to be on the wall. The exhibit labelled 'Craftsman Baker Paper Bag' contained scraps of meat that tested 'positive for blood'. On the outside of the bag were stain marks that were supposed to be tested but no record of such tests exist. This was found on the 26 March, well after Susan was considered the 'only' suspect.

The CCRC and the Police Complaints Authority agree that Susan's statements were improperly taken and should not have been used against her either at trial or appeal.

Despite the above, Lord Justice Paul Kennedy dismissed Susan's appeal on the 7th December 2001